It's a tough time to be a police officer. Following some high-profile incidents of police misconduct, police officers throughout the country find themselves under fire. It has been said that police officers are being treated like veterans returning from Vietnam.
We all want to hold accountable any police officer who violates the rights of citizens. Any officer who violates his duty of public trust should be brought to justice. At the U.S. Attorney's Office, we have charged police officers with criminal violations of civil rights laws, and we have used civil laws to allege unconstitutional policing, as we did in the recently resolved case against the Detroit Police Department.
But we should recognize that those cases are few and far between. Viral videos create the false impression that these incidents occur more frequently than they actually do. Every day, our nation's 900,000 sworn police officers leave their homes, accepting the risk that they may not return. Last year, 123 officers in the United States lost their lives. Officers respond to the scenes of car accidents, domestic violence, public disturbances and violent crime. And most often, they do so professionally, without incident. Of course, we don't hear about those acts because it is not news when a police officer does his job well.
Most residents recognize this reality. When we meet with residents of our community to discuss policing issues, the most frequent complaint is not about excessive force, but about the need for more police officers.
Although we should not overlook the tragic loss of life that has occurred, the incidents of police misconduct have had some positive results. Police departments are examining their processes to look for improvement. President Obama has created a task force on 21st Century Policing. That task force has recommended best practices that are being implemented all across the country, such as implicit bias training, improved diversity in police departments, increased efforts in community engagement and body cameras.
This week is Police Week with various events planned throughout our communities. Please take a moment to attend one of these events. Or, if you encounter police officers, please thank them for their service.
And while police work can always be improved, I don't want to live in a world where there are no police officers.
Barbara L. McQuade
United States Attorney
Eastern District of Michigan